This was the name given to a series of political disputes between the corporation and the opposition in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The controversies centered around two main issues: a long standing dispute about the petty customs and a new dispute about the poor rates.
The opposition conceded the right of the corporation to charge petty customs and wharfage at the town quays, but argued that the proceeds should be used to maintain and extend the quays, rather than being used for unrelated expenditure.
The Act of 1773 which had set up the poor law union had led to a doubling of the poor rate. In the 1790s the opposition sought to repeal the Act, and accused the corporation of using its influence with the poor law board to add to the poor rates many expenditures, which ought to have been met from its own revenues.
The disputes engendered a series of pamphlets, broadsheets and letters to the press, many of which were reproduced in a compilation of 1793 called The Civil Wars of Southampton.

Further reading:
The Civil Wars of Southampton, by Anon. (HS/h)
History of Southampton Vol 1, by A. Temple Patterson, p78-89. (HS/h)


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